TSMC Reportedly Poised For 3nm Chip Volume Production In 2022

TSMC Wafer
It seems Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is right on schedule to begin mass producing silicon based on its 3-nanometer process next year, which will pack 1.7 times the logic density of its 5nm node. Barring any snags, TSMC expects to churn out 30,000 wafers in the latter half of this year, as 3nm production enters the risk production phase.

The foundry is highly motivated to stay on schedule—previous reports have suggested Apple will tap into a very large part of TSMC's 3nm capacity for its future iPhone, iPad, and Mac products. Bear in mind we are talking about future models slated to arrive in 2023, which presumably rules out the iPhone 13 (though not necessarily). Incidentally, there is rumor floating around that Intel inked a deal with TSMC to outsource 3nm chip production, so we'll see what happens.

Citing a Digitimes report that sits behind a paywall, the folks at MacRumors say TSMC's risk production phase will see the fab kick out 30,000 wafers per month in the second half of 2021, followed by an expansion to 55,000 wafers per month in 2022, courtesy of Apple's extensive orders. Then by 2023, TSMC expects to be cranking out 105,000 wafers based on 3nm.

TSMC Nodes Slide
Source: ISSCC 2021

During a recent presentation at the ISSCC 2021 conference, TSMC chairman Mark Liu talked a bit about the fab's node, noting the aforementioned logic density increase. In addition, the 3nm node is expected to deliver an 11 percent boost in speed and consume 27 percent less power compared to 5nm. It is typical for node shrinks to result in faster, more power efficient products.

It will be interesting to see which generation of Apple's custom M1 processor adopt 3nm manufacturing. It's possible the M1X could ride aboard the 3nm train, though 5nm seems more likely, given the time frame.

Speaking of 5nm, which is what AMD will use for its Zen 4 processors and RDNA 3 graphics chips, TSMC is on track to scale its 5nm manufacturing capacity to 105,000 wafers per month by mid-year, compared to 90,000 wafers per month at the end of 2020. Then in the second half of this year, TSMC anticipates producing 120,000 wafers per month based on 5nm.